According to a correspondence shared by a reader from View From The Wing, United is playing around with the refund rules set out by US Department of Transportation (DOT) by redefining what a flight cancellation means. The airlines has also boldly claimed that their definition is in line with DOT regulations.

Earlier in April, amidst the high influx of refund-related complaints, the DOT re-emphasized that the airlines have to issue a prompt refund for any flight cancellation, or significant delay.

A passenger is entitled to opt for a refund if:
– the airline cancelled a flight, regardless of the reasons; or
– the airline made a significant schedule change and/or significantly delays a flight.

However, in an attempt to avoid refunds as mandated by the DOT, United expressed that a flight is only considered cancelled if the flight is removed from their schedule and they cannot re-book the passenger on another flight within 6 hours.

As written in the correspondence, this is how United defines their schedule change and cancellation policy.

Schedule change: A flight is removed from our schedule, but the customer can be accommodated within 6 hours.

Significant Schedule Change: A flight is removed, and a customer cannot be accommodated with an impact of 6+ hours.

Cancellation: A flight is removed and we cannot accommodate the customer.

If we remove a flight from our schedule and can accommodate the customer with another flight within 6 hours, that is not considered a cancellation.

A cancellation is not based on flight number or tail number, but on the ability to provide transportation to our customer without significant delay.

As much as how United likes to instil on the idea of “United Together” to boost their company image during this COVID-19 crisis, the airline has been introducing a series of unfavourable (and silent) changes during this period; this has sparked fury among customers and frequent flyer members.

Unannounced Hike In Partner Award Redemption Rates

Just a few days, various sources have identified that United has silently increased partner award redemption rates by 10% in most regions.

Although United announced in April 2019 that United award flights will be switching from fixed to dynamic award pricing, for travel beginning November 2019, the redemption rates, for partner award flights, would remain unchanged.

However, what United said was a half-truth, as they introduced a hike in November 2019 for last-minute bookings on partner award flights. Redemption rates for advanced bookings have remained the same; until a few days ago when United introduced an unannounced hike across most regions, which caught everyone off guard.

Here are some examples:

BetweenClassBeforeAfter
US and Japan/KoreaEconomy35,00038,500
US and EuropeBusiness 70,00077,000

Earning Status Through Partner Airlines is Now Tougher

In addition to the hike in partner award redemption rates, TPG also noted that a few days ago United made it harder for frequent flyer members to earn elite status on partner airlines.

In short, United has added a limit on qualifying points that can be earned through partner airlines. These qualifying points are needed to achieve United’s Premier Status.

Premier Status Qualifying Requirements
Premier Status Qualifying Requirements. PQP = Premier Qualifying Points, PQF = Premier Qualifying Flights
New Caps on PQP Earnings on Partner airlines, Introduced in late April 2020

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